Stimulus as tar baby

Remember Sarah Palin's, Haley Barbour's, Bobby Jindal's, Rick Perry's, and Mitch Daniels' opposition? The Governors who tried to turn down this money are now viewed as financial geniuses. The WSJ has this:

First, in most state capitals the stimulus enticed state lawmakers to spend on new programs rather than adjusting to lean times. They added health and welfare benefits and child care programs. Now they have to pay for those additions with their own state's money. . . .

Second, stimulus dollars came with strings attached that are now causing enormous budget headaches. Many environmental grants have matching requirements, so to get a federal dollar, states and cities had to spend a dollar even when they were facing huge deficits. The new construction projects built with federal funds also have federal Davis-Bacon wage requirements that raise state building costs to pay inflated union salaries.

Worst of all, at the behest of the public employee unions, Congress imposed "maintenance of effort" spending requirements on states. These federal laws prohibit state legislatures from cutting spending on 15 programs, from road building to welfare, if the state took even a dollar of stimulus cash for these purposes.

One provision prohibits states from cutting Medicaid benefits or eligibility below levels in effect on July 1, 2008. [At the peak of benefits.] . . .

Labels: ,

Guns in Washington DC Wizards Locker Room

No one was harmed, but it appears as if at least two of the Washington Wizard players had handguns with them in Washington DC.

NBA all-star Gilbert Arenas and his Washing ton Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton drew guns on each other in the team's locker room during a Christmas Eve dispute over a gambling debt, The Post has learned. . . .

A top players-union official said he was shocked by the allegations. "This is unprecedented in the history of sports," said Player's Association Executive Director Billy Hunter. "I've never heard of players pulling guns on each other in a locker room."

Of course, this is raising the whole issue of athletes with guns again. Some anecdotal evidence indicates that a lot of players own guns.

The Nets, to a man, swear they've never seen guns in their locker room -- but some estimate that as many as 75 percent of NBA players own them.
"I guess they feel like they need some sort of protection," guard Devin Harris said yesterday, guessing that 60 to 75 percent keep at least one gun at home.
Forward Jarvis Hayes played for four years with Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas, who's under investigation for taking a gun into his locker room. He called 75 percent "a fair number."
"I didn't think he'd bring a gun to the locker room," Hayes said. "When I first heard it, I thought he might've been playing, but he wasn't, apparently."
"There's a time and a place for everything," said guard Keyon Dooling. "On the job is not it."

Some in the media are bashing athletes for having guns.

Out of such fears, athletes arm themselves, ignoring the good sense of Paul Pierce, the Celtics star who was the victim of a multiple stabbing at a Boston nightclub -- but still chooses to take a security person with him, rather than his licensed handgun.
A limo driver is dead and the fate of ex-NBA star Jayson Williams still is in legal limbo over a horrific, accidental firing at Williams' New Jersey mansion eight years ago. And yet athletes such as Allen Iverson, Sebastian Telfair and Delonte West still have been arrested on gun charges out of exaggerated needs to arm themselves.

Some NBA players carry concealed handguns:

A tower of power, he stands 7 feet 1 inch, weighs 325 pounds, and bears a tattoo of Superman's signature "S" on his massive left arm. Yet NBA great Shaquille O'Neal protects himself off the basketball court with more than his physical might and inky bond with the Man of Steel.

He is licensed to carry a concealed weapon. . . .

Labels: ,

Cashier gives robber everything, but is still murdered

This video ends right before the robber fatally shots the cashier.


How appropriate is it for Bill Clinton to get millions of dollars from governments that are dealing directly with his wife as Secretary of State

Is it appropriate that foreign governments give money to Bill Clinton why they are dealing directly with his wife as Secretary of State? Is it appropriate that the exact amount of the donations not be reported publicly?

Foreign countries including Saudi Arabia and Norway gave millions of dollars to former President Bill Clinton's charity as Hillary Rodham Clinton served her first year as President Barack Obama's secretary of state.
A donor list released on New Year's Day by the William J. Clinton Foundation shows that Saudi Arabia and Norway each donated somewhere between $10 million to $25 million to the former president's charity. . . .
The William J. Clinton Foundation works in the United States and around the world on such issues as health care, particularly HIV/AIDS; climate change; and economic development. It also runs the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., which includes Clinton's presidential library. . . .

The comparison to other former presidents is quite the same as their wives are not still holding powerful government positions. It is true: "The Clintons were under no legal obligation to identify foundation donors." But it sure raises questions.

Labels: ,

New Year New Laws

Regarding texting:

“It’s the hottest safety issue in the states right now by far,” said Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety agencies. . . .

Labels: , ,

Court Cases let Police Arrest permit holders

It doesn't seem like these cases will be very common, but they do impose a real cost on those who carry permits. That said, I do understand a police officer's desire to be careful. Checking on whether someone has a permit seems quite reasonable, as long as it isn't done to simply harass permit holders. But the Massachusetts case involved holding the permit holder AND then taking away his gun, which goes too far.

One from Georgia:

Christopher Raissi holds a Georgia firearms license and frequently carries a handgun concealed. On October 14, 2008, he was carrying concealed on MARTA. He did not know that a MARTA police officer observing the parking lot had seen him holstering and concealing his firearm while still at his car. Therefore, he was surprised when he was surrounded by police officers who yelled "Police!" and ordered him to stop. The officers then seized his firearm from his holster and began questioning him, asking, according to the court's written opinion, "[W]hat are you doing with a gun?"
After seeing Raissi's firearms license and driver's license, the officers ran background checks on Raissi and held him, according to Raissi, for half an hour. The officers transported Raissi to a locked area out of the public eye before finally releasing him and returning his firearm and other property.
In the ruling today, Judge Thrash held that merely carrying a concealed firearm justifies such detention and disarmament. He wrote in his opinion that "possession of a firearms license is an affirmative defense to, not an element of, the crimes of boarding [MARTA] with a concealed weapon and carrying a concealed weapon."
"After Raissi concealed his handgun and started walking to toward the MARTA station, he had committed all of the acts required for the crime of boarding with a concealed weapon and the crime of carrying a concealed weapon."

As a result, Judge Thrash concluded that the officers had reasonable suspicion that Raissi was committing two crimes. As a result, the officers were justified in using force to detain him, and the "officers were entitled to take Raissi's handgun because they knew Raissi had concealed it on his person and would have easy access to it while they questioned him." The officers were also entitled to ask him for his social security number and transport him to a locked area out of the public view. . . .

Another case from Massachusetts.

The case stems from a lawyer who sued a police officer after he was detained for lawfully carrying a concealed weapon while in possession of a license to carry concealed. According to the case opinion, the lawyer, Greg Schubert, had a pistol concealed under his suit coat, and Mr. Schubert was walking in what the court described as a "high crime area." At some point a police officer, J.B. Stern, who lived up to his last name, caught a glimpse of the attorney's pistol, and he leapt out of his patrol car "in a dynamic and explosive manner" with his gun drawn, pointing it at the attorney's face.
Officer Stern "executed a pat-frisk," and Mr. Schubert produced his license to carry a concealed weapon. He was disarmed and ordered to stand in front of the patrol car in the hot sun. At some point, the officer locked him in the back seat of the police car and delivered a lecture. Officer Stern "partially Mirandized Schubert, mentioned the possibility of a criminal charge, and told Schubert that he (Stern) was the only person allowed to carry a weapon on his beat." . . .
The court further held that the officer was entitled to confirm the validity of a "facially valid" license to carry a concealed weapon. The problem for Officer Stern was that there is no way to do so in Massachusetts, where this incident occurred. As a result, the court held that Officer Stern "sensibly opted to terminate the stop and release Schubert, but retain the weapon." . . .


Governor McDonnell comes out for ending gubernatorial term limits

It is pretty hard to find any discussions by Virginia's new Governor, Robert McDonnell, when he ran for Governor about ending Virginia's term limit for governor. At best it was hardly at the top of his list of goals during the campaign.

Robert F. McDonnell hasn't served a day as Virginia's chief executive, but the governor-elect already says he will work to overturn a Virginia law forbidding governors from serving consecutive terms. . . .

None of these stories had any mentions of McDonnell trying to end term limits last year.



"Can Republicans Win Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat?" Very likely not

Sean Trende has this analysis at RealClearPolitics. While it would be nice and extremely important if the Republicans could get this seat, the Republican candidate is not such a strong candidate and Massachusetts is a strong Democrat state. Mr. Trende thinks that even with the Republican trend this year, the vote might be "in the 54%-46% range."


Treasury officials admit that Government program is making Housing Woes worse

Despite its qualifications, even the NY Times recognizes that one of the government stimulus programs hasn't worked and may indeed have made things worse, just delaying the inevitable. Even more noteworthy is that behind the scenes people in the Obama administration are admitting it isn't working. It would be nice when they acknowledge that the rest of the stimulus package has made things worse.

Some experts argue the program has impeded economic recovery by delaying a wrenching yet cleansing process through which borrowers give up unaffordable homes and banks fully reckon with their disastrous bets on real estate, enabling money to flow more freely through the financial system.

“The choice we appear to be making is trying to modify our way out of this, which has the effect of lengthening the crisis,” said Kevin Katari, managing member of Watershed Asset Management, a San Francisco-based hedge fund. “We have simply slowed the foreclosure pipeline, with people staying in houses they are ultimately not going to be able to afford anyway.”

Mr. Katari contends that banks have been using temporary loan modifications under the Obama plan as justification to avoid an honest accounting of the mortgage losses still on their books. Only after banks are forced to acknowledge losses and the real estate market absorbs a now pent-up surge of foreclosed properties will housing prices drop to levels at which enough Americans can afford to buy, he argues.

“Then the carpenters can go back to work,” Mr. Katari said. “The roofers can go back to work, and we start building housing again. If this drips out over the next few years, that whole sector of the economy isn’t going to recover.”

The Treasury Department publicly maintains that its program is on track. “The program is meeting its intended goal of providing immediate relief to homeowners across the country,” a department spokeswoman, Meg Reilly, wrote in an e-mail message.

But behind the scenes, Treasury officials appear to have concluded that growing numbers of delinquent borrowers simply lack enough income to afford their homes and must be eased out. . . .

As to the benefits of the plan:

Whatever the merits of its plans, the administration has clearly failed to reverse the foreclosure crisis.

In 2008, more than 1.7 million homes were “lost” through foreclosures, short sales or deeds in lieu of foreclosure, according to Moody’s Economy.com. This year, more than two million homes were lost, and Economy.com expects that next year’s number will swell to 2.4 million. . . .

UPDATE: Record Plunge in November Existing Home Sales

Pending home sales unexpectedly plunged in November, according to a report issued Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors, posting their largest drop on record after several months of positive gains for a closely-watched indicator of housing market activity.

According to the industry group, November pending home sales activity dropped by 16% to a reading of 96.0, compared with the previous month’s reading of 114.3. The drop was much larger than expected by Wall Street, which was looking for a dip of 2% for the indicator for November.

It was the largest drop, point-wise, since the industry group started the index in 2001, dragging the indicator to its lowest level since June. . . .

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said activity was expected to slow in the winter but he expects it to pick up again as the new April deadline approaches. . . .

Labels: ,

Trouble for TSA nominee

Erroll Southers has some problems with what he told the Senate committee that he testified before.

The White House nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration gave Congress misleading information about incidents in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws, documents obtained by The Washington Post show. . . . .

The committee approved his nomination Nov. 19. One day later, Southers wrote to Lieberman and Collins saying his first account was incorrect. After reviewing documents, he wrote, he recalled that he had twice conducted the database searches himself, downloaded confidential law enforcement records about his wife's boyfriend and passed information on to the police department employee, the letter said. . . .

In questioning before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Southers has said he understands the need to balance security and privacy. Said Collins: "You have taken responsibility for your actions. You've acknowledged your mistake in the personal conversation that we had in my office. It is important that the public have confidence that government officials will not misuse the authority that they have."

She added: "If you're confirmed, you're going to have the access to databases that have personal information on many, many individuals, such as through the secure flight program, and it's going to be important for the public to have confidence that you would not, in any way, misuse your access to the personal information in those databases. So, let me first ask you: Have you ever in the past misused your access to databases that the government maintains, other than this one incident that led to this censure?"

"No, Senator, I have not," Southers replied.

Collins continued: "Do you commit today that you will respect the privacy and civil liberties concerns that people have with regard to the personal information in those databases?"

"Yes, Senator, I do," Southers said.

Labels: ,

Happy New Year

I wish everyone a happy and successful New Year!

Dems finding it very hard to get strong recruits to run for office in 2010

Surprisingly some of these Democrats were actually in the process of organizing and running for the office when they decided to back out. I don't know if this rush to the exists might still impact the health care vote.

Democrats have lost yet another touted recruit, this time in Kansas.

State Sen. Laura Kelly (D) just announced her withdrawal from the race to face Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.). She becomes the fifth formidable recruit to bow out in recent weeks.

“I have been forced to make a decision between honoring the pledge I made to the people in my Senate district and my firm conviction that the people of the 2nd congressional district deserve a truly independent voice in Congress," Kelly said in a statement.

“This has been a very hard decision, but it is the right one.”

Kelly joins several recent dropouts, including businessman Jack McDonald, a well-funded challenger to Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) who announced last week that he wouldn't run. The others are Ohio state Rep. Todd Book, who was running against Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio); former Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Paula Flowers, who was running for Rep. Zach Wamp's (R-Tenn.) seat; and Solana Beach City Councilman Dave Roberts, who was running against Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.).

Both McDonald and Kelly were cited in a late October memo from DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) that touted the committee's recruiting successes.

On top of that, Democrats have lost four incumbents in vulnerable districts to retirement recently. It has been a distinct shift, taking five seats off the map on offense and adding four on defense.



Concealed handgun permit stops robbery

This case just occurred in COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho.

Idaho barista pulls shots, packs heat, stops theft
The Associated Press
December 31, 2009

Being a Barista
Is $11,000 Clover Coffee Machine Worth the Money?

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) -- A teen trying to rob an espresso stand in northern Idaho met his match in a gun toting barista.

Police say the 17-year-old confronted Sunshine Espresso owner Michelle Cornelson with a gun Wednesday morning, demanding all her money.

Cornelson has been hunting since she was a girl and says she remained calm as a customer pulled up to the other side of her kiosk in Coeur d'Alene (kohr duh-LAYN'), distracting the teen.

Cornelson quickly whipped out her 9 mm Kel-Tec pistol, which was a Christmas present from her husband. That scared off the teen so Cornelson could call police.

A sheriff's deputy was nearby after picking up a beverage at the stand and caught the suspect. The teen was later taken to a juvenile detention center.

Fox News has this video (the section on the defensive gun use starts about about two minutes into the piece).

Labels: ,

A real dropped ball on Christmas Day Bombing Attempt

This sounds about as serious of a warning as one can get.

The accused "underwear bomber" made a dramatic final call to his father that he found so alarming, the father approached Nigerian officials who took him directly to the CIA's station chief in the Nigerian capital, sources told ABC News.

Current and former officials of the Nigerian government, including a source close to the suspect's family, say Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, called his father from Yemen with the warning that it would be his last contact.

It has previously been reported that the man's father, prominent Nigerian banker Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, went to Nigerian and American officials Nov. 19 to warn them that his son had been radicalized by Islamic militants in Yemen.

Details have emerged about Abdulmutallab's final phone call that highlight President Obama's statement that there were "systemic failures" of the country's security system.

ABC News' sources said that during Abdulmutallab's final call, he told his father the call would be his last contact with the family. He said that the people he was with in Yemen were about to destroy his SIM card, rendering his phone unusable. . . .

Labels: ,

Some news on Carbon DIoxide

For those not familiar with Science Daily, it is a decidedly leftwing website. But even with the spin they put on things, it has a few interesting posts today.

The earth's ability to sequester Carbon Dioxide is not changing as many had claimed.

some studies have suggested that the ability of oceans and plants to absorb carbon dioxide recently may have begun to decline and that the airborne fraction of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions is therefore beginning to increase.
Many climate models also assume that the airborne fraction will increase. Because understanding of the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide is important for predicting future climate change, it is essential to have accurate knowledge of whether that fraction is changing or will change as emissions increase.
To assess whether the airborne fraction is indeed increasing, Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol reanalyzed available atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions data since 1850 and considers the uncertainties in the data.
In contradiction to some recent studies, he finds that the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased either during the past 150 years or during the most recent five decades. . . .

Can Carbon Dioxide be at Good Thing?

I am not sure why this is such a new "revelation" or an "unexpected benefit" as the article claims.

Labels: ,

Another shooting in a gun free zone in Finland

Well, there doesn't seem to be any attempt to consider the type of approach tried in the US and some other countries.

HELSINKI, Dec. 31, 2009 (Reuters) — . . . Finland's third shooting spree in as many years. Police said Ibrahim Shkupolli, 43, killed three men and a woman at the Sello mall in Espoo, a town near Helsinki, as shoppers stocked up for the New Year holiday. . . .

The New Year's Eve carnage followed shootings at Finnish schools in 2007 and 2008, after which Helsinki tightened gun control regulations, with further restrictions planned.

A Reuters reporter at the Sello mall, one of Finland's largest shopping centres, saw helicopters overhead and fire trucks around the entrances after the shootings. The mall was shut down as police hunted the gunman. . . .

Here is another piece on this:

Many Finns were also shocked to discover today that there are 1.6 million guns in our country of five million people. . . .

Today's killings were somewhat different. The suspected killer, Ibrahim Shkupolli, was a 43-year-old man of Kosovan Albanian origin. He shot his former partner at her home, four of her colleagues in the shopping mall where they were at work and, finally, himself. He had no licence for his 9mm pistol.

Instead he had several convictions, one for holding an illegal 9mm cartridge in 2006 and another for possessing a smaller hand gun hidden in his home in 2004. The 9mm gun was never found, though, perhaps because police did not look hard enough. In addition, a judge had ordered him to keep his distance from his ex-partner and her flat. Now she and five other people lie dead. . . .

Labels: ,

Obama's deadline for Iran on Nuclear Weapons is Up

Any bets on whether Obama's promises are followed up with any real actions?

Today's the deadline President Obama imposed on Iran's leaders to give up their nuclear ambitions and be nice. . . .

Rather than cave in to our president's mighty rhetoric, the Tehran tyrants took a break from killing protesters in the streets to attempt to import more than 1,300 tons of make-a-nuke uranium ore from Kazakhstan.
They've also increased their nuke-cooker centrifuge count, tested new long-range missiles and lied like Persian rugs about hidden nuke sites. In response, our president threatened to huff and puff and blow their house down.
Iran's retort? "Love the cool breeze, Barack."
This is another debacle of Obama's own making. It's a fundamental rule of playgrounds and security policy that you shouldn't make threats you can't or won't back up. But Obama's in love with the sound of his own voice. The fanatics in Tehran are more interested in the sound of a nuclear blast.
Desperate leftists in our country still compare Obama to Bush, insisting that, well, Obama's not doing so badly, not really, not if you really think about it.
Bush, for all his faults, worried our enemies. Obama amuses them.
Obama's primary threat against the Tehran thugs has been sanctions. OK, let's see if he can get internationally recognized sanctions that actually bite. I'm offering 100-to-1 odds in Tehran's favor. . . .

Labels: , ,

Wikipedia Claims that Rush Limbaugh is Dead

Wikipedia the always trusted news source (see here and here) had the news that Rush Limbaugh had died yesterday.

Looks like the folks at Wikipedia were prepared for the worst when it came to Rush Limbaugh. Actually they were a little too well prepared.

Shortly after the news broke that the conservative political radio talk show host was hospitalized, Wikipedia updated his page – and pronounced him dead. . . .

Labels: ,

More stimulus spending on things people wouldn't spend their own money on

From ABC News:

Federal stimulus money to be spent on new tennis courts in Bozeman drew the ire of Montana's governor Tuesday — and sparked a brouhaha between the Democrat and Republicans over who is to blame.

The issue started with reports that the City of Bozeman decided Monday to spend about $50,000 of its $621,000 in stimulus money to replace aging courts with a new rubber tiled surface — a move the city pointed out was perfectly allowed by stimulus guidelines. . . .


This is why you don't treat those you are fighting in a war as criminals

Abdulmutallab might know the identities of those who he trained with. That could be very valuable in stopping similar attacks. He probably knows the location of the training base. He probably knows the identity of those doing the training. However, Abdulmutallab is lawyered up and not talking. Fine you can't use the information that you get from interrogations to prosecute the guy. But can't you still interrogate him to get valuable intelligence information? See this in the third to last paragraph in a Washington Post article.

Abdulmutallab remains in a Detroit area prison and, after initial debriefings by the FBI, has restricted his cooperation since securing a defense attorney, according to federal officials. Authorities are holding out hope that he will change his mind and cooperate with the probe, the officials said. . . .


Canada Inuits Claim that the number of Polar Bears is the highest ever

The Inuits and other numbers seem to clearly show that there are more polar bears.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- as well as many polar-bear biologists -- say that global warming is destroying so much of the bears' icy habitat that the species could be nearly wiped out in the next 100 years. The U.S. is pushing to ban global trade in polar bears at an international meeting in March.

Canada says it has "considerable concern" over polar bears' future, but that it is unclear how much Arctic ice will be lost and what effect the melts will have on the wildlife that lives there.

Then there is Solomon Awa, a resident of Iqaluit in Canada's Arctic northeast, who like many Inuit is seeing more polar bears than ever when he goes hunting. "I've seen polar bears are not declining," says Mr. Awa. "Actually, there are increasing numbers." . . .

Veteran polar-bear biologist Mitchell Taylor says he has been ostracized by former colleagues for his views that global warming isn't man-made, and therefore it is hard to predict what will happen to the climate or polar bears in the future.

"For the sake of polar bear conservation," Mr. Taylor's views "are extremely unhelpful," fellow polar-bear biologist Andrew Derocher, wrote in an email this summer explaining why most of Mr. Taylor's colleagues wouldn't welcome him at an international meeting.

Mr. Taylor, in turn, has accused Mr. Derocher and others of twisting facts to make polar bears seem more endangered than they are. "That's what we lost in this whole debate -- perspective," says Mr. Taylor.

Nearly everyone agrees that there are more polar bears now than when scientists first started counting: Estimates put the population between 20,000 and 25,000, up from several thousand 50 years ago. In Canada, where two-thirds of the world's bears live, most populations have grown during the past two or three decades. Arctic residents say they are now bumping into bears wherever they turn. . . .

The article is clearly wrong about this:

In recent years, the Arctic sea ice has been shrinking at the pace of 11% per decade

See this discussion here.

Labels: ,


Obama's broken promises on earmarks

This was not just the president's promise from this past August, but also his promise repeated many times during the campaign. From Fox News:

President Obama pledged in August to cut all pork barrel projects from defense spending, threatening to veto any swollen bills that came across his desk -- a pledge shattered by nearly 2,000 pet projects that have made their way into the defense budget.

"If a project doesn't support our troops, we will not fund it," he said to a meeting of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Phoenix. "If a system doesn't perform, we will terminate it. And if Congress sends me a defense bill loaded with that kind of pork, I will veto it. "

Just last week, Obama broke his promise as he signed into law the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill -- a $636 billion behemoth loaded with $4.2 billion of pork. . . .

In all, Congress added in 1,720 pet projects, including:

∙$5 million for a visitors center in San Francisco
∙$23 million for indigent health care in Hawaii
∙$18 million for the Edward Kennedy Policy Institute in Massachusetts
∙$1.6 million to computerize hospital records in Oakland
∙$47 million for anti-drug training centers around the country
∙$20 million for the World War II Museum in Louisiana
∙$3.9 million grant to develop an energy-efficient solar film for buildings
∙$800,000 for minority prostate cancer research
∙$3.6 million for marijuana eradication in Kentucky
∙$2.4 million for handicap access and a sprinkler system at a community club in New York

Lawmakers also added $5 billion for two destroyers, 10 C-17 cargo planes and to develop a jet engine the Pentagon neither wants nor needs. Critics call it classic pork -- projects that may save jobs, but not money.

"There is a reason they are added to the Defense appropriations bill, because everyone in Congress knows this is a must-pass piece of legislation", said Todd Harrison, a budget studies fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. . . .

But a study by the Center of Defense Information says earmarks like those in this bill -- including those for the solar film, prostate cancer research, and the New York sprinkler system -- mean less money for pilot training, supplies, repairs and ammunition. . . .

Labels: ,

Giving financial institutions the wrong incentives

For those who thought that the bailouts were wrong the first time around, Barney Frank's legislation before congress will soon guarantee bailouts as a matter of law. The law "authorizes Federal Reserve banks to provide as much as $4 trillion in emergency funding the next time Wall Street crashes. So much for “no-more-bailouts” talk. That is more than twice what the Fed pumped into markets this time around. The size of the fund makes the bribes in the Senate’s health-care bill look minuscule." Quite bizarrely though:

the Federal Reserve and Treasury Secretary can’t authorize these funds unless “there is at least a 99 percent likelihood that all funds and interest will be paid back.” Too bad the same models used to foresee the housing meltdown probably will be used to predict this likelihood as well.


Some hope that the health care takeover will still be stopped

Ben Nelson is facing a lot of flak in Nebraska for breaking his promises on government funding of abortions and his pledge not to raise taxes.

As a fresh poll measured the political cost of Sen. Ben Nelson's health reform vote, he prepared Tuesday to take his case directly to Nebraskans during Wednesday night's Holiday Bowl game.
Nelson will air a new TV ad in which he attempts to debunk opposition claims that the Senate legislation represents a government takeover, and he makes the case for health care reform. . . .
The political damage Nelson may have incurred in providing the critical 60th vote that cleared the way for Senate passage of the health care reform bill showed up Tuesday in a poll released by Rasmussen Reports.
The telephone survey of 500 Nebraskans, conducted Monday, suggested Republican Gov. Dave Heineman would defeat Nelson in a potential 2012 Senate race by a 61-30 margin.
The poll showed Nelson with a 55 percent unfavorable rating and 64 percent disapproval for Democratic health care reform legislation.
"The good news for (Nelson) is that he doesn't have to face Nebraska voters until 2012," Rasmussen Reports stated in posting results of the survey on its Web site. . . .

Governors who had previously supported the health care legislation are now quite upset with what they are reading.

The governors of the nation’s two largest Democratic states are leveling sharp criticism at the Senate health care bill, claiming that it would leave their already financially strapped states even deeper in the hole.

New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson and California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are urging congressional leaders to rework the Medicaid financing in the Senate-passed bill, warning that under that version their states will be crushed by billions in new costs.

After the Senate passed the bill in a Christmas Eve vote, Paterson said the expansion would leave New York $1 billion in the lurch. The state faces a $6.8 billion budget shortfall heading into the 2010 fiscal year.

“[I] am deeply troubled that the Senate version of the bill worsens what was already an inequitable situation for New York and I will continue to be an advocate on behalf of New Yorkers to ensure we are treated fairly by this critical federal legislation,” Paterson said in a statement.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Schwarzenegger wrote that the legislation would create a “crushing new burden” for a state with a whopping $20.7 billion budget deficit. . . .

Labels: , ,

Senator Chris Dodd and corruption

As if Senator Chris Dodd didn't have enough problems. Note the low interest loans that he got from Countrywide Financial:

The Connecticut Senator got favored treatment from the subprime mortgage purveyor, even as he was a power broker on the Banking Committee that regulates the industry. When the news broke, the Senator first denied that he sought or expected preferential treatment. He later admitted that he knew he was considered a VIP at the firm but claimed he thought it was "more of a courtesy." He also promised the Connecticut press that he'd come clean with the documents and details of the loans. But six months later -- nada, zip, nothing. . . .

But unfortunately that is only the beginning. Back on August 29, 2007, the International Association of Fire Fighters endorsed Senator Chris Dodd in his attempt to get the Democratic presidential nomination. Well, apparently Senator Dodd didn't forget and his attempt to repay that support may have hurt American's security against terrorists.

Back in July, Senator Chris Dodd, D-Conn., proposed an amendment reducing aviation security appropriations by $4.5 million in favor of firefighter grants -- a notoriously inneffective program. In fact, the money was specifically "for screening operations and the amount for explosives detection systems." The amendment was also sponsored by Sen. Lieberman, D-Conn., and Sen. Carper, D-Del., but Dodd deserves to be singled out here because the firefighters union is a pet constituency of his. In 2007 he campaigned all through Iowa with the firefighters union. It was one of the few distinguishable features of Dodd's ill-fated presidential bid.
The text of the amendment is below:
(Purpose: To provide additional funds for FIRE grants under section 33 of the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974)
On page 77, between lines 16 and 17, insert the following:
SEC. X (a) The amount appropriated under the heading "firefighter assistance grants'' under the heading "Federal Emergency Management Agency'' under by title III for necessary expenses for programs authorized by the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974 is increased by $10,000,000 for necessary expenses to carry out the programs authorized under section 33 of that Act (15 U.S.C. 2229).
(b) The total amount of appropriations under the heading "Aviation Security'' under the heading "Transportation Security Administration'' under title II, the amount for screening operations and the amount for explosives detection systems under the first proviso under that heading, and the amount for the purchase and installation of explosives detection systems under the second proviso under that heading are reduced by $4,500,000.
(c) From the unobligated balances of amounts appropriated before the date of enactment of this Act for the appropriations account under the heading "state and local programs'' under the heading "Federal Emergency Management Agency'' for "Trucking Industry Security Grants'', $5,500,000 are rescinded.

This seems like yet another reason why the conference committee that will put together the House and Senate versions of the health care takeover should do its work in the open.

Labels: ,


Police deaths down to level that they were in 1959

Following the big drop in murder and violent crime, it isn't too surprising that police deaths have fallen, and it is nice to have it confirmed. With a lot more police these days, I am sure that the rate must be much lower. It would be nice for people to link this with the huge increase in gun ownership and concealed carry permits over the last couple of years.

Law enforcement deaths this year dropped to their lowest level since 1959, while the decade of the 2000s was among the safest for officers — despite the deadliest single day for police on Sept. 11, 2001.
The drop in deaths, cited in a police group's report Monday, was tempered by an increase in firearm deaths. In one horrific November shooting, four officers were executed as they discussed their upcoming shift in a Lakewood, Wash., coffee shop.
Through Dec. 27, the report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found:
_124 officers were killed this year, compared to 133 in 2008. The 2009 total represents the fewest line-of-duty deaths since 108 a half-century ago.
_Traffic fatalities fell to 56, compared to 71 a year ago. The report said the decline was partly attributed to "move over" state laws, which require motorists to change lanes to give officers clearance on the side of a road.
_Firearms deaths rose to 48, nine more than in 2008. However, the 39 fatalities in 2008 represented the lowest annual figure in more than five decades.
_Thirty-five states and Puerto Rico had officer fatalities in 2009, with Texas the only state in double figures. Texas had 11 fatalities, followed by Florida, 9; California, 8; and North Carolina and Pennsylvania, 7. . . .
"To reach a 50-year low in officer deaths is a real credit to the law enforcement profession and its commitment to providing the best possible training and equipment to our officers," said the Memorial Fund chairman and chief executive officer, Craig Floyd. . . .

Labels: , ,

Obama Justice Department removes prosecutor who sought prosecutions in the New Black Panther Party case

What would have been the news coverage if a Republican administration had removed a career prosecutor in such a politically charged case?

The veteran Justice Department voting rights section chief who recommended going forward on a civil complaint against members of the New Black Panther Party after they disrupted a Pennsylvania polling place in last year's elections has been removed from his post and transferred to the US attorney's office in South Carolina.

Justice Department officials confirmed Monday that Christopher Coates, who signed off on the complaint's filing in federal court in Philadelphia in January accusing the party and three of its members of civil rights violations, would begin his new assignment next month.

The complaint, which accused party members of intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place while wearing black berets, black combat boots, black dress shirts and black jackets with military-style markings, and wielding a nightstick, was later dismissed by Obama administration political appointees at the Justice Department.

The incident gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube.

The dismissal resulted in outrage by some Republican members of Congress and in a formal investigation by the US Commission on Civil Rights, which subpoenaed Mr. Coates and J. Christian Adams, the lead attorney in the case, to testify on why the complaint was dismissed. The commission also is seeking documents to explain why the charges were dropped just as a federal judge was about to approve sanctions. . . .

Labels: ,

Latest polls on Health Care Takeover

The latest Rasmussen poll has these results:

Just 40% of voters nationwide now favor it while 55% are opposed. Those figures are essentially unchanged from a week ago. This is the sixth straight week with support for the legislation between 38% and 41%.
As has been the case throughout the debate, those who feel strongly about the issue are more likely to be opposed. Just 21% of voters Strongly Favor the plan while 43% are Strongly Opposed. . . .

Few support government funded abortions or not requiring proof of citizenship to get medical coverage.

Fifty-four percent (54%) say taxpayer-funded health insurance should be prohibited from covering abortions, up six points from September. The House version of the legislation includes such a prohibition, but the Senate version does not.
Fourteen percent (14%) of U.S. voters say health insurance paid for or subsidized with government funding should be required to cover abortions. Twenty-nine percent (29%) say the legislation should have no requirements one way or the other.
On another hot-button topic, 87% believe that before anyone receives government health care subsidies, they should be required to prove they are legally in the United States. President Obama and congressional Democrats insist the health care plan will not cover illegal immigrants, the legislation does not require proof of citizenship for those seeking taxpayer-funded health care help. . . .

Labels: ,


Napolitano's inconsistent statements on "the system worked"

Just yesterday DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed that the attempt to blow up the Amsterdam-Detroit flight this week demonstrated that "the system worked." On NBC's Today Show this morning she claimed that her comment was taken out of context, and that she agreed that the system "failed miserably." Unfortunately for Ms. Napolitano, the explanation that she gave for being quoted out of context made little sense.

In her interview this morning, she claimed that her reference to the system working just dealt with how security responded after the attack had been thwarted.

MATT LAUER: . . . You made a comment over the weekend and I want to call attention to that because a lot of people are disagreeing with it this morning. You talked about this incident aboard this Northwest flight and you said "when it came right down to it, the system worked." A lot of people don't think the system worked at all, that the only thing that prevented disaster was luck. Can you respond to that?

JANET NAPOLITANO: Sure, I think the comment is being taken out of context. What I'm saying is that once the incident occurred, moving forward, we were immediately able to notify the 128 flights in the air of protective measures to take, immediately able to notify law enforcement on the ground, airports both domestically, internationally, all carriers, all of that happening within 60 to 90 minutes, so --

LAUER: So you're only talking about what happened after this man tried to ignite this explosive device on the plane.


But Napolitano's comments yesterday were not just about the aftermath of the attack:

"What we are focused on is making sure that the air environment remains safe, that people are confident when they travel. And one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. . . ."

It is hardly obvious why the actions taken after the attempted attack should assure us that travelers should be "confident." Nor is it obvious that the heroic actions taken by a passenger, Jasper Schuringa, who stopped the bombing were part of some great design. Schuringa put out the fire with his bear hands while he was screaming for someone to give him water.

Unfortunately, Matt Lauer didn't call Ms. Napolitano on the inconsistencies in her statements.

UPDATE: Joe Lieberman seems to buy Napolitano's claim that her statement was simply misunderstood:

"She came to the job with tremendous experience - federal prosecutor, state attorney general, governor. She's done a good job," Lieberman said on ABC. "I agree with Senator Collins, and I'm sure Secretary Napolitano agrees with us, too....Some of the choice of words last Sunday were subject to misunderstanding, and they've been badly misunderstood."

Senator Susan Collins was more accurate;

Asked if Collins had confidence in Napolitano, the senator said, "I do, but I will say that her initial comments were bizarre and inappropriate."

"It baffled me that she said that the system worked very, very smoothly, when clearly it did not," Collins said. "It also surprised me when she implied that there was not information to indicate that this individual posed a threat when there was information." . . .



Possible defensive gun use in Wauconda, Illinois

These intruders apparently picked the wrong house to invade.

Police Investigate Shootings In Wauconda
Dec 27, 2009 8:20 pm

WAUCONDA, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) ― Emergency crews were responding to an incident that possibly involved three shooting victims Saturday night in north suburban Wauconda.

About 5:47 p.m., authorities responded to a 911 call of shots fired at a residence in the Country Ridge subdivision o f Wauconda.

The Wauconda Police Department released a press release Saturday evening citing two males pushed their way into the residence and would not leave after repeated demands and physical altercations and one of two of the homeowners shot both subjects.

Officers responded to the scene to find both alleged intruders with gunshot injuries in front of the residence. Home residents and the alleged intruders were transported to Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. Residents were treated and released. The extent of the injuries of the alleged intruders is not known as of Sunday.

Names of the victims and the offenders are not known.

Thanks to Mary Ellen Libraro for the link.

UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune reports that the two men who broke into the home were wearing masks. They also apparently used enough force to break some metal off the door.

A homeowner shot two masked men who pushed their way into a far north suburban Wauconda house early Saturday night, sending both suspects to the hospital, police said. . . .

The shooting happened about 5:47 p.m. Saturday, with the masked men forcing their way into a house in the Country Ridge subdivision, then engaging in "repeated demands and physical altercations," police said. They refused to leave, police said, and one of the homeowners shot them. . . .

The Chicago Sun-Times describes the event somewhat differently and claims that the people who broke into the home were at the wrong address and looking for an eleven year old son. This report also notes that the homeowners who had their house broken into had to go to the hospital because of the attack by those who broke into the house.

Police on Monday said the incident appears to have stemmed from a mistaken address.

“They were looking to pick up a family member and for an unknown reason, they went to the wrong house,” Wauconda Police Cmdr. John Thibault said.

“They knocked on the door and when someone opened the door, they didn’t know who they were,” Thibault said. “ They didn’t belive that was the case, thought something was wrong and forced entry into the residence.”

The residents of the home were also taken to Good Shepherd, where they were treated and released. Investigation indicates this incident is not gang- or drug-related, according to officials.


On CNN, "Napolitano: 'The system worked'"

This was a little bit of a surprise claim: "the system worked." I suppose that she could argue that having the passengers act was part of her grand plan, but this seems like a lot to claim.


For First Time, Plurality of Voters Believe Stimulus Plan Hurt the Economy

From the Rasmussen poll of likely voters.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 30% of voters nationwide believe the $787-billion economic stimulus plan has helped the economy. However, 38% believe that the stimulus plan has hurt the economy. This is the first time since the legislation passed that a plurality has held a negative view of its impact.
The number who believe that the stimulus plan has hurt the economy rose from 28% in September, to 31% in October, and 34% in November before jumping to 38% this month. The week after the president signed the bill, 34% said it would help the economy, while 32% said it would hurt. . . .

National Survey of 1,000 Likely Voters
December 20-21, 2009

Earlier this year, Congress and the president enacted a $787 billion economic stimulus plan. So far, has the economic stimulus plan helped the economy, hurt the economy or had no impact on the economy?
No Impact
Not Sure

Labels: , ,

The Brennan Center, long a proponent of campaign finance regulations, now wants to get rid of judicial elections

If there was ever a doubt that the Brennan Center was anti-democratic, I hope that notion is now put aside:

Caperton v. Massey, the Supremes set out a new standard requiring judges to recuse themselves if there is a "probability of bias" in a case. That was a marked departure from historical standards, which required a judge to step off primarily when he had a direct financial interest. . . .

This mayhem is the strategy of the George Soros-funded Brennan Center and Justice at Stake that see draconian recusal standards as a way to stigmatize judicial elections. By impugning a judge's ability to rule impartially by attacking his campaign statements, these groups hope more states will choose their judges through "merit selection"—a process that gives disproportionate influence to lawyers and tilts state courts to the left. They've scheduled an event in Michigan in February to push the state to consider an end to judicial elections. . . .


Pork and more pork in the health care bill, no wonder the Democrats want to do all the negotiations in secret

The Freedom Project has a lot of links that it has put together on pork given out in the health care bill. Senator Schumer claims: “Every state got something [in the health care bill]," but it looks to me that Democrat Senators got a lot of pork. Senator Harry Reid "said that if a senator didn't get his state "something" in the health-care "reform" package, then that senator wasn't doing his or her job," though Reid apparently didn't get anything for Nevada. Note that this fits in with the pork given out in the Stimulus, where the money didn't go to states with the most unemployment or other problems, but tended to go to more Democratic states. I have already put up links to many of these points over time, but it is still useful to put them all together in one place. If this doesn't convince the Democrats to have some transparency, I am not sure what will.

The Wall Street Journal calls it "special-interest discrimination" [Transfers to Longshoremen Union] that demonstrates "how all health-care choices will soon be made as Washington expands its political control over one-seventh of the U.S. economy." Here are some of the lowlights:

Pork greased reform's passage: "With the bill hanging in the balance, [Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)] won a provision exempting his state from paying the usual share of costs for new Medicaid patients. The deal critics have dubbed the Cornhusker Kickback is expected to cost the federal government $100 million over 10 years." (Politico)

The $300 million Louisiana purchase: "Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, provided one of the last two votes needed to bring the government health care takeover to the Senate. She didn't even blush about selling her vote. 'I am not going to be defensive. And it's not a $100 million fix. It's a $300 million fix,' Mrs. Landrieu bragged on Nov. 21. This gross windfall will flood into her state through added benefits in the health care bill. This is government at its worst." (Washington Times)

Mmmmm, Pork: "Buried inside Senate Maj. Leader Harry Reid's 12/19 manager's amendment was a mysterious $100M for an unspecified 'Health Care Facility.' It was confirmed by ABC News' 'The Note' and AP that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) inserted the following paragraph into the health care bill on behalf of his home state…" (National Journal)

Republicans Take Aim at Deal-Making: "Several states -- including Nebraska, Vermont and Massachusetts -- won deals for more generous federal payments under the Medicaid program. 'Who will pay for these special deals?' Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) asked his colleagues. 'The answer is simple -- every other state in the union.'" (Wall Street Journal)

Cost-control and taxes for some, but not for others: "White House budget director Peter Orszag has claimed that the bill's 40% excise tax on high-cost insurance plans is key to reducing health costs. Yet the Senate Majority Leader's new version specifically exempts 'individuals whose primary work is longshore work.' That would be the longshoremen's union, which has negotiated very costly insurance benefits. ... In other words, controlling insurance costs is enormously important, unless your very costly insurance is provided by an important Democratic constituency." (Wall Street Journal)

Concessions lawmakers won in the health bill: "SEN. BILL NELSON, D-FLA., pushed a provision he said will let about 800,000 Florida seniors enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans keep their extra benefits. … Elsewhere, Medicare Advantage patients risk losing benefits because the private plans are a major target of planned cuts to Medicare." (Associated Press)

Senate's Deal: Compromise or Corruption?: "Democrats shrugged off questions about the one state deals - saying this is how you get to 60 votes.' That's what this legislation's all about - it's the art of compromise,' Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. Republicans called it the art of corruption." (CBS News)
Whatever you call them – the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase – these massive giveaways are simply wrong and emblematic of a bill that has been negotiated behind closed doors and away from the watchful eyes of the public and the media.

That's why House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Republicans are calling on the president and his allies to "scrap the bill" and start over with a better plan – like the Republican solution that would lower premiums and cut the deficit – and to start conducting major legislative negotiations out in the open.

Labels: , , ,